SCOTLAND Yard has launched a fresh investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann after identifying “genuinely new” lines of inquiry and new potential suspects.
• British police have launched a fresh investigation into missing Madeleine McCann and believe there is a chance she is alive
• Police to follow up “genuinely new” lines of inquiry and have identified 38 people of interest, including 12 from the UK
Police have identified 38 “persons of interest”, including 12 Britons, following a two-year evidence review – and say they believe the missing girl could be alive. None of the 38 individuals is known to the McCann family.
Madeleine, aged three at the time of her disappearance, went missing from her room at the Praia da Luz holiday resort in the Algarve in Portugal on May 2007 while her parents were dining with friends at a restaurant.
Kate and Gerry McCann made impassioned pleas for help in tracing their daughter, leading to a global search that gripped the world’s media.
The 12 British potential suspects were all in Portugal at the time Madeleine vanished, and are thought to be in Portugal or the UK. The remaining 26 are believed to be in these countries or three other unnamed European nations, police said.
“We continue to believe that there is a possibility that Madeleine is alive,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the inquiry. “It is a positive step in our hunt for Madeleine that our understanding of the evidence has enabled us to shift from review to investigation.”
A team of 37 detectives has spent two years trawling through thousands of documents, witness statements and pieces of evidence as part of a UK government-funded case review.
That review was yesterday upgraded to a full-scale investigation, with police saying they have a number of new theories about what happened.
DCI Redwood said his team has carried out new witness interviews and was in a “unique position” in analysing information from police in Portugal and the UK, as well as seven private detective firms.
“That has given us the ability to see this case with fresh eyes, and bring out new, genuinely new, lines of inquiry,” he said.
The Portuguese investigation is officially closed but authorities there are backing the Scotland Yard inquiry and officers from both countries will work together in pursuing new leads.
Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the McCann family, said: “Kate and Gerry warmly welcome this shift in the Metropolitan Police emphasis. They see it as a huge step forward in establishing what happened and hope that it will lead to bringing to justice whoever was responsible for Madeleine’s abduction.”
If a British person were charged with a sexual offence or murder in relation to the case, then they could stand trial in the UK.
DCI Redwood said he “genuinely” believes that Madeleine may still be alive, and appealed to the public to keep looking for her.
He stressed that neither her parents nor the McCanns’ friends who were having dinner with them that night are among the 38 identified. As part of the UK police review, a computer-generated image of how Madeleine might have looked at the age of nine was created with the help of her family last year.
They marked her 10th birthday on 12 May.
3 May, 2007 – Kate and Gerry McCann leave their three children asleep in their holiday apartment. At 10pm, Kate finds Madeleine is missing.
14 May – Detectives question property developer Robert Murat and make him a formal suspect. This is later dropped.
30 May – The McCanns meet Pope Benedict in Rome to highlight the search for their daughter.
7 September – McCanns made formal suspects – this is lifted in July 2008.
2 October – Goncalo Amaral, detective in charge of the inquiry, removed after criticising British police.
24 July, 2008 – Mr Amaral publishes a book about the case in which he alleges Madeleine died in holiday flat.
29 January, 2009 –
£2 million raised for the official fund to find Madeleine.
12 May, 2011 – Mrs McCann publishes book about daughter’s disappearance. Scotland Yard launches a review of case after a request from Home Secretary Theresa May.
25 April, 2012 – Scotland Yard detectives say Madeleine could still be alive, release an age-progression picture.
17 February, 2013 – McCanns brand plans for a new press regulator backed by a Royal Charter “a compromise of a compromise” that do not go far enough in holding the press to account.
21 February – Retired solicitor Tony Bennett, 65, who published claims Madeleine’s death caused by her parents, given suspended jail sentence.
21 June – Prosecutors confirm London’s chief crown prosecutor Alison Saunders flew to Portugal with Scotland Yard detectives in April to discuss the case with Portuguese counterparts.